Sunday, 30 April 2017

An Awfully Big Adventure to watch, as well as to read

I first watched the film for An Awfully Big Adventure back in 2014 when, in a crash course of research and film-watching I had taken it upon myself to go through practically the whole of Hugh Grant's filmography. At the time I had not yet read, nor ever even heard of, the book by the same title, on which the film is based. However, it being directed by Mike Newell, a hero in my eyes for pulling off Four Weddings and a Funeral on the miserable budget and just forty days of shooting (check my old post about that one here: (http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2014/03/a-winner-is-born.html) , I knew I wanted to see what could only have been a masterpiece, I thought at the time. Newell delivers, as does Hugh Grant in his sleazy villainous role, but unfortunately the film was not a masterpiece at all. Back then I reviewed it from the point of view of someone seeing it not only for a first time, but also unable to understand the Liverpudlian accent used practically throughout and not having a clue what to expect or what the story was all about. The result of those first musings can be read here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2014/09/an-awfully-big-adventure-1995.html

I have since then read through the book twice (fascinating book, artistic rather than mainstream and never boring) and rewatched the film in order to compare. The first thing that came to mind when I read Beryl Bainbridge's book was how closely the whole of the film followed the original. Yet film and book can never be alike in interpretation, because the two different media require different skills and can make use of different tricks as well as that the written word is about describing just enough for the reader to imagine the scenes as he will, whilst a film's job is to accurately bring to life those descriptions and to portray, even without being able to show us what's in a character's head as a book would, just what exactly is going on with the characters. In fact, visuals can convey things that words cannot. I found it charming yet disconcerting that this film did, a few times, tune into Stella's (the main character and a teenager) mind to tell us details that would otherwise have had to be left out.

But on to the real object of this post, which is the Book versus Film review I promised my readers a while ago. Please note that there are a few spoilers ahead but nothing that gives away the plot or ending in my opinion.

Bainbridge's novel is played out around Stella Bradshaw, a teenage girl in 1940s England, who is fascinated by and actually good at acting, if nothing else. She manages to take on an apprenticeship at a local theatre where she falls for the handsome but eccentric Meredith, the director, whilst settling in well with the rest of the cast and crew. As she slowly starts to find her place in the system and with the people around her, a newly arrived old-time actor returns to the theatre to play a main part vacated by another actor who has broken his legs. P.L.O'Hara, the most fondly mentioned actor who also appears to have been a womaniser with a lost love, notices Stella in a way she cannot yet understand and soon she finds herself in a relationship of sorts with the older man. Meanwhile, with Meredith still in the background, things are complicated in more ways than one.

The film relies totally on the book for plot but I have noted that a couple scenes have been slightly changed or that at times two facts have been intertwined into one clip. Also, the film leaves quite a bit out and yet tries to fit in other facts without giving them the attention they require in order to make sense. It starts with non-sequential clips that had me thinking how the film plays out best for those people who've read the book rather than as a stand-alone. One thing to its advantage is that it gets progressively better to the point where it becomes gripping towards its surprise end.

Meredith and P.L. O'Hara in the film, picture from https://multiglom.com/2015/02/22/seven-british-films-from-the-1990s-that-are-actually-worth-seeing/an-awfully-big-adventure-screencap-alan-rickman-11591093-1024-576/
In a line I enjoy with each watch of film and trailer, Hugh Grant's character tells his newly assembled cast before the start of the season that they're all the best people for the job, given the money. It truly seems to me that this film was put together in the same way, using the best resources and scripting that were possible when making what looks to me to be a low budget film. It also does have some good camera angles.

All in all I would prefer reading this book rather than watching the corresponding film for this story, yet even after two read-throughs of the book, one particular scene in the film made me understand a part of the book that's important to the ending much better than reading it had. In the one touching scene for Grant's character, Meredith gives his interpretation of a particular play to Stella. Her idea is that it is a film about unrequited love, his is that it is about death and the survivor. His imaginative description of what death is, after all, to the living, becomes pivotal to Stella's and the film's final scene. Twice I read the book and twice this had escaped me, as well as on the first viewing when my ears were not yet as tuned to the thick accents and the British accents in general. In all probability this was due to that a book is usually read in fits and starts and it is rarely the case that one could pick up a story and go through it at one time. With a film, in an average of two hours, the viewer is given the whole picture, and not enough time to forget details that might previously not have seemed important enough to remember, as would happen in a book.

The film is also to be praised for some minute details that make it more haunting, in keeping with the atmosphere of its final few scenes. It gives Stella a flashback, one that is used throughout, where the girl can still remember the last time she saw her mother when still a baby. I believe Stella did used to think back to her past in the book too, but not in the particular instance I am about to mention. When the flashback happens again right after a very particular end to her relationship with O'Hara, Stella and the audience can hear a very distinctive and finalistic click as the door closes behind her mother. I would not like to give away the ending so I will just say that it was a very aptly timed artistic touch in adding to the great loneliness Stella must have been feeling.

O'Hara with the girl Stella (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/500110733600766353/)
This has turned into a rather long post but I cannot end it before adding a very important piece of praise for all the main actors involved in this film. Despite the episodic and sometimes erratic nature of the script as well as a story that is quite difficult in my opinion to visualise and interpret, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant in their respective roles as hero and antagonist pulled off the dark characters marvellously and Georgina Cates (not her real name but the one in the credits for this film) managed to capture Stella's innocent and odd nature in a way only a natural young innocent could.


Janet Maslin, who was a critic for The New York Times for twenty-two years up to 1999, wrote about this film back when it came out and her review is spot on so here it is for you all in case you'd like a read: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=990CE3DD1530F932A15754C0A963958260

Friday, 21 April 2017

Reviewing: White Heat, Episode 6

Following my review of Episodes 4 and 5, which you can find here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com.mt/2017/01/1974-white-heat-episode-4-bbc-two.html

A while back I was doing an episode by episode review of White Heat but then never had the time to sit down and write the review for the final episode. I apologise for keeping you all hanging on this one but it really has been crazy around here, as it always seems to be. However I did rewatch the episode some time ago in order to do this and so here it is, finally, my take on the ending of the BBC series about a bunch of average teens and who they turn out to be in the end:

The whole group of friends from White Heat, pic from http://enthrallingentertainment.blogspot.com.mt/2012/04/white-heat-s1-ep6-sea-of-trees.html
The whole of the series centred around the question of whose death it was that led all the others back to the 'scene of the crime' where they'd been through so much together, good and bad. At the start of this last episode we still do not know which character it is that the others are cleaning up after. I should have mentioned before but think I didn't, that in clearing up the deceased's house the former roommates found a safe which they could not open. This last chapter reveals who in fact is the first to go from this world from the seven friends once the sixth person turns up at the flat, whilst the safe holds the key to the resolution to the story, excuse the pun!

The episode starts in the present day then flashes back to 1990 and some pivotal scenes to the plot. The hostility in this particular instalment is very heavy and obvious and there seem to be multiple friendship splits happening. Jay is resentful of the rest of the group when after Jack and Orla tell the others of his condition, they all insist he do the right thing about it, even if it will ruin the career he loves so much. Meanwhile Lilly and Charlotte seem at odds ever since Charlotte revealed her secret, of which Lilly should be jealous but appears not to be, at least in front of her best friend. This is in fact the episode during which we find out what happened to sever the two friends so totally from each other. After all, certain emotions can't be kept in check forever and Lilly was bound to explode at some point. With Lilly's choice to spill on Charlotte came other complications, causing a rift in Victor and Charlotte's relationship as well as making Jack once again appear the fool of the party. Orla unfairly thinks that this time too, Jack is leaving the house simply to get away from the mess he's unknowingly created, rather than because, as he says, he needs to go check on his old father who is in bad shape. Even in all the turmoil surrounding relationships that comes with the scenes from 1990, I am still unsure of where exactly do Alan and Lilly stand in their own relationship. At one point after Lilly's cruel outburst in a crushing scene for Jack, Victor and Charlotte, it seems as though Charlotte is about to tell Alan Lilly's secret, in retaliation to having her own spat out. However she decides against it and it seems to me that Lilly's secret is kept safe to date, even as she and Alan, now both much older, help clear the house of their dead friend's belongings, amassed from years of friendship and really belonging to all of them after all.

Back to the safe, it is finally opened to reveal much more about the missing friend than the others ever knew about him/her. In it are clear indications as to why the particular person was who he/she was and why that person strove till the end to keep the 'family' of friends all together. Among other prized possessions is a DVD that the friends pop into the laptop to check out, and in it they find the reason behind their friend's very being and mission in life. In the end, this person had succeeded in his/her intent and left behind a group of people who were all better for having been involved in this family of sorts with the deceased. As happens with the loss of one, it brings the rest together in a way they would never have thought to dream, soothing over hurts of old and bringing hope and a renewed sense of belonging.

That's it from me about this rather difficult and rather distinctive series that is probably not everyone's cup of tea and yet, if it is yours, it will leave an imprint on your mind where all the good characters live on long after the end of any tale.



And for those who are interested, here's a good interview with Sam Claflin (Jack) and Claire Foy (Charlotte) about their characters and love story in the series: http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/interviews/a367745/white-heat-claire-foy-sam-claflin-qa-its-an-emotional-journey/

Monday, 10 April 2017

The 'I love' Series - essence Beauty Products

I might be a Minimalist but there are some things few women are ready to go without and so I have to admit that I love my beauty products. Granted I usually buy fewer items than other girls but I always ensure to have on hand the colours and items that I love and which suit me so that I can always touch up my face just a tiny bit to appear smarter (and prettier) in order to feel more confident.

I have tried expensive brands and cheaper brands, different types of makeup and different styles of makeup, till I came up with my absolute faves which I like to keep on hand. Among my very fave beauty items to go to are the following, which all happen to be from well-known yet inexpensive brand essence.

Eyeshadow in different shades of purple and browns and gold. Not liquid (so not too runny) yet not too powdery either (powder makes my eyelids itch), I find the texture of essence eyeshadows just right for me and their colour range is gorgeous.

Mascara is just the thing when you want a natural look that still attracts attention to your eyes. After several frustrated attempts at putting on mascara and then my spectacles, I gave up trying to make my lashes darker without having black smudges all over my glasses. essence waterproof mascara solved this problem for me and now I can use it daily without it affecting my sight.


Lipstick, the ultimate in looking dressed up in my opinion. Having just tried a new shade today, I can confirm that it lasted me a few hours even after I'd had my sandwiches and tea on the go.






Nail thickener for my nails, which are razor-sharp even though short and natural. So it was a relief when I finally stumbled upon essence nail thickener which solves my problem of scratching everything and everyone too easily.







Perfume to give me a confidence boost when I need to be meeting people all day. essence is the only brand I have found which have a perfume that will not make hay-fever sufferers sneeze else give me breathing problems or both, which is a wonder even before factoring in its very affordable price.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Bridget Jones is back, as are Mr Darcy and Mr Cleaver

I mentioned in two previous posts that I would soon be linking a book review on here, kindly sponsored by Agenda Bookshop and published on eve.com.mt

I'd said it would be about a character we all know and love and some of you might have been wondering about who and how it therefore had to be a sequel or else a new book based on an existing film. So here it is, a surprise sequel from Helen Fielding, the diary version of what happens when Bridget Jones gets pregnant. Not a total replica of the film by the same name but much more interesting in my opinion, here it is, the review for Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries.